faster-than-light travel has always been seen as nothing more than science fiction. However, faster-than-light travel may not be so farfetched anymore. Engineers today are working to create the first usable ‘warp drive’, which would allow human beings to travel thousands of light years in the span of weeks or months. One might expect this implies we’ve figured out a way to be able to move faster than light itself, which seemingly contradicts Einstein’s theory. Shockingly though, the trick behind this feat lies not with creating a way to move faster to the location, but to move the location closer. This method requires digging deep into theoretical physics and making use of the very fabric of space and time. Should it be brought from theoretical to reality, the implications for space travel would be incalculable.
The most fundamental of these aforementioned physical laws is Einstein’s theory of relativity, which set an ultimate speed limit for the universe . Alpha Centauri, the next closest star after our own sun, is 24 trillion miles away. Even at light speed, such a trip would take generations. Todays’ theoretical physicists have, as a result, thought of intergalactic travel as something that will take at minimum years or decades, with technologies such as cryogenics being required to ever have man travel to a distant galaxy in a lifetime. The assumption behind these predictions involves trying to move with the highest attainable velocity and getting to the destination in a linear fashion. But as shows like Star Trek and other science fiction have suggested, what if we could just change the distance between our location and destination instead?
While the math behind his theory has been verified and remains sound to this day, a near-infinite level of negative energy would be required. Just the science behind such power would require a deep knowledge of theoretical physics. Due to both of these requirements, Alcubierre’s model has been thought to be impossible to achieve in reality until just as recently as a few years ago.
From Theory to Reality
Along with decreasing the energy required to generate a warp field, the problem of manufacturing negative energy has been solved with the recent discovery of the Casimir Effect and antimatter for small and large scale warps, respectively.
For the larger-scale negative energy generation, antimatter is a new possibility. Whereas normal matter has positive energy associated with it, antimatter has negative energy, meaning that an antimatter reaction would release this negative energy . While antimatter has not yet been used to generate the large amounts of energy necessary for interstellar travel, as currently only small quantities exist in laboratories, in the future it is easily foreseeable that antimatter could be used to create the necessary energy to power a large-scale warp bubble.
Besides engineering theoretical warp drive systems, Dr. White is also working with NASA’s Eagleworks Lab to test if these warp fields can be created in the first place. A small scale warp field has been designed by NASA and Dr. White which
The “toroid capacitor ring” is the warp field generator, most likely utilizing the Casimir Effect for energy.
and then back down into a detector, while the other passes through the warp sphere generator
then is reflected back into the detector. If the warp generator is off, the beams should arrive at exactly the same moment, proving that distance is equal between the two mirrors. However, if the warp generator is turned on, one of the beams should be shifted slightly, as the distance inside the warp sphere is now different than the distance between the empty air the other beam travels through. By measuring this change of distance, Dr. White and his team hopes to prove
that warp fields can be successfully generated on a small scale.
Will it work?
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